Dec 15, 2021.
Thousands of sermons are being preached during this advent season about Jesus’ coming, and I’m sure they will be filled with many stirring insights. I wish I could hear them all – Oh how I love the Christmas message. But there is one portion of the incarnation story that tends to get downplayed.
#JesusStory: Luke 4 captures Jesus’ mission statement. The way it happened is that Jesus and crew went into a Jewish synagogue, and true to form they invited Jesus to do the reading. He asked for the scroll of Isaiah, and found his way to the section we now know as Isaiah 61. The very fact that he could get to that section while everyone was watching demonstrates familiarity with the scrolls, which is impressive in and of itself and speaks to Jesus’ devotional life. But once there he read about being anointed to lift the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. Then to the astonishment of those in attendance he said that section of prophecy had now come true on that very day in that very room. In other words, this was his divine commission that had been delivered to the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier, but on that day they were all witnesses to the fulfillment of that prophecy and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And then he went from that room and began to do exactly what he had read – he pursued the poor, he healed the blind, and he released oppressed peoples from all kinds of bondages. We need to pause right now and remember that this is the stated reason he came to earth.
It is easy in our wealthy part of the world to blur Jesus’ primary commitment to the marginalized and offer up a Jesus that has come for the middle and upper classed peoples, but it isn’t quite true is it? Actually, He unapologetically stated and demonstrated an initial calling to the people who were not doing very well in this life. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that Jesus loves us all and embraces us into the family, but still his stated and practiced mission started with the ‘least of these’. May we not forget this part of the story as we preach our advent messages. If we get our Saviors first steps wrong in our messaging, then our next step will be offering a sanitized Jesus to a sanitized audience, and the incarnation will be emptied of the compelling power; Heavens deep love for us is proved by the deep contrast of the incarnation – He who had everything came to earth and gave it up for people who had nothing. Once we reveal Jesus’ first calling, something wonderful happens afterwards.
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.